There are two sitcom opening credits that have left a deep impression on my heart. #1 Full House, #2 The Mary Tyler Moore Show. For this entry, I must focus my attention to Mary Tyler Moore. I was a passionate weird child growing up, and I specifically remember wanting to be in a position like Mary Tyler Moore and throwing my hat into the air. Everything was perfect and happy. As I grew older, this sitcom credit became far more possessing of me. I fell in love with the lyrics and completely identified with them. One particular scene from the titles came to life when I first drove in California. I love how Mary is driving her Ford Mustang on the highway and looking with wonder and caution as that thrilling green Minneapolis traffic sign comes towards the viewer and the ariel shot of the city fills your heart with excitement as the orchestra swells to a climax of Love Is All Around! Well, I'll never forget the first time I lived that scene...it was a magical dream come true and I cried becuase it was so personal. I live it every day and it NEVER gets old, but I don't cry; I just have this exquisite batshit-nut-house-crazy grin on my face!
California: the exact utterance of the word thrills me. People come here from all over the world to be whoever and whatever they want to be. They flock here to better themselves and exert freedom, they trek forth into this frontier to be themselves and explore all the possibilities of life. There are no boudries…we all push the limits, but we’re not all lasciviousness profligates. Back home in Arkansas, I always enjoyed how southern people classified this state as the “Land of Fruit and Nuts”. It sounded so exciting and appealing; I wanted to be a part of it. Here I am. California, your now granola!!! Its time I start to live, live live!
The San Francisco Bay Area is mesmerizing and absorbing. If you have a sponge-like personality, pack your bags and head for the Golden Gate…but know this: you’ll never be able to engross everything around you. My mind is blown away every day as I try to comprehend how this area works. The function astounds me. There are Ariel overpasses that just fill my soul with joy unspeakable, I relish crossing over and under them! It baffles my mind how those engineers design these massive transportation structures! I remember the first time I drove on a clover leaf…it was exhilarating!
The Bay Area is connected by seven key bridges: The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge (the #1 suicide destination on earth), The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, The San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (which is ten miles long: one of the longest bridges in the world), the Dumbarton Bridge, The Carquinez Bridge, and Benicia-Martinez Bridge. I always think of the film Prince of Tides whenever I cross the San Mateo Bridge. Tom Wingo says in haunting narration: “At the end of every day I drive through the city of Charleston and I cross the bridge that will take me home. I feel the words building inside me, I can’t stop them, or tell you why I say them, but as I reach the top of the bridge these words come to me in a whisper. I say these words as a prayer, as regret, as praise, I say: Lowenstein, Lowenstein.” Oh my Gawd…I’m verkelmpt! Oye! This too shall pass.
The major interstates in the Bay Area are Highway 101, 880, 80 (the Bay Bridge), 680, and 580. The 880 is the one I use most often. There are parts that develop into six lanes on each side. The farthest lane to the left is the Car Pool Lane; it’s restricted to two or more people in a single automobile from 6AM-10:00AM and from 3:00PM-7:00PM. If one drives solo in that lane during those restricted times, they can be fined by a policeman if noticed. To control traffic congestion, each interstate has a computerized system that controls the influx of motorists. Meters with traffic lights are strategically arranged on the on-ramps and are enforced during morning and evening rush hour. There are also electric signs that drape over the highway to lanes that tell you how many minutes you are from certain cities and airports. These signs also flash California license plate numbers and special hotlines for the national Amber Alert System. Oddly enough, the Amber Alert was created in Arkansas back in the late 1990s when a little girl by the name Morgan Nick was kidnapped in Alma, a small community located on Interstate-40. Morgan Nick vanished without a trace, and the perpetrator is still out there.
To further the awesomeness of the California transportation system, drivers will see trains that run through the middle of certain interstates like the 580 with stations cemented into the girders. Those trains are called BART-Bay Area Rapid Transit System. Since the population reaches 7.4 million, a subway system had to be generated. The BART System runs inland and brings people into the larger cities. In order to get into San Francisco, an underwater tube had to be created. It’s called the Trans-Bay Tunnel and it’s located underneath the San Francisco Bay. It runs parallel to the mighty San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Interstate 80) which is a colossal engineering marvel. This bridge is a visual spectacle. The span even cuts through a natural island called Yuerba Buena through a tunnel! Yuerba Buena is located next to a man-made island called Treasure Island which is named after Robert Lewis Stevenson’s beloved novel. People live on it.
The gargantuan Bay Bridge is the main access in and out of San Francisco from my part of the peninsula. The bridge is double-decked and allows 10,000 commuters a day to cross in and out of San Francisco. The top lane allows commuters into the city. Likewise, the bottom lane takes commuters back into Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Dublin, Hayward and other towns located in the East Bay. You must pay a toll of $6.00 to cross it or have a FastTrack, which is a censor that a motorist can place on their windshield and pass through without stopping. The censor beeps through the toll lane and the fee is credited to the driver’s account which they must pay off at the end of each month. In 1989, the World Series was held in San Francisco. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck which polarized the Bay Area. The dreadful quake was so commanding that it caused a top segment of the Bay Bridge to collapse onto the bottom lane!
Whenever a traffic accident occurs it’s a real bitch! Traffic bottlenecks in places and creeps along slowly. I specifically remember driving on the 880 for the first time in rush hour and a tractor trailer carrying cars had an epic failure. One of the cars became unlocked from the trailer and tumbled backwards into the highway crashing into the unlucky motorist behind it. Not pretty. Thankfully radio stations were letting the public know the reason for the delay Rush hour is congested and patience testing. Many residents wake up at 4:00AM to be on the highway by 5:00AM to be at work early in order to avoid the hassles. This is especially true for people that live in-land and don’t have BART access. You call it crazy? I call it a way of life. People do it, and I commend them.